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For its anniversary, 10 reasons to love the Modern

Posted 10:30am on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012

It has been 10 years since the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth moved from its cramped quarters that were Will Rogers-adjacent and into the sublime concrete structure across the street from the Kimbell Art Museum. The relocation was fewer than two blocks, but the difference in perception was staggering. Overnight, the cultural institution that was the also-ran in the field of three major art museums became a national contender and a local treasure.

Over the past decade, the museum has enticed people through its doors day and night with a variety of exhibitions and cultural activities. Every month its calendar seems denser with samplings of the international banquet of the arts. It has expanded its reach with theater, music, film and dance offerings, plus parties, lectures and a continual slate of great art exhibitions.

In honor of the Modern's 10th anniversary, we celebrate its 10 greatest strengths.

The building

It seems like the Modern has always been in the Tadao Ando-designed building. Can it be only 10 years? Its rebirth was so dazzling, all memories of the former location were immediately erased. Ando's graceful interior houses hives of activity and sanctuaries for contemplation surrounded by a panoramic pool that serenely embraces the landscape. The galleries are retiring stage sets that allow the art to star, while elsewhere the architecture demands to be noticed.

Exhibitions, large

There have been many memorable exhibitions, some of which expanded on artists represented by favorite pieces in the permanent collection, including Philip Guston, 2003; Dan Flavin, 2005; Anselm Kiefer, 2005; Robert Bechtle, 2005; Ron Mueck, 2007; and Martin Puryear, 2008. Others were introductions to artists whose works would be delightful to have as permanent residents -- Chuck Close, 2006; Hiroshi Sugimoto, 2006; Kara Walker, 2008; and Lucian Freud, 2012.

Exhibitions, small

The "Focus" series, organized by curator Andrea Karnes, brings succinct displays of work from young, international artists to the Modern. Each year, one piece from the three yearly Focus shows is purchased by the Director's Council for inclusion in the permanent collection.

Permanent collection and acquisitions

In 2002, when the new building opened, the Modern had a commendable permanent collection with many purchases bought specifically for the new facility. Another large group has been acquired for the 10th anniversary. These pieces have been debuting throughout the fall.

The staff

Over the past decade there have been several new museum directors introduced at other Fort Worth institutions; not so at the Modern. Here, the top people are the same ones who presided over the ribbon cutting: director Marla Price, chief curator Michael Auping and curator Andrea Karnes. Guards and gift shop personnel are often local artists who work at the Modern while they struggle to launch their careers. It's a tight family that loves working at the Modern.

Tuesday Evenings lecture series

Every Tuesday through the spring and fall, the Modern brings in guest speakers for a free lecture. The topics are varied, and, while not every person invited is riveting, attendance never feels like a waste of time and is often the best entertainment of the week.

Dance, theater, films and music

The Modern Art Museum is not just for art. Performances in dance, music and theater are staged, and regular weekend screenings bring in films often not shown anywhere else in Fort Worth.

Café Modern and gift shop

If you only want to travel the first floor -- dining in the cafe with its unsurpassed view or perusing the gift shop -- you can do that without paying the $10 admission to the galleries. The cafe menu changes seasonally, but I never see beyond the crab cakes.

The grounds

The 11-acre site recently won the national 2012 Environmental Improvement Award for commercial landscaping. This was voted on by professionals from across the county. It is amazing what 10 years of professional care and attention will grow.

The road forward

With such deft administration, careful acquisitions and dynamic programming, the Modern is one of the most popular gathering arenas in Fort Worth. The public has embraced the Modern and all it provides. A rousing "Bravo!" for a decade of accomplishments and pleas of "More!" for the future.

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